Universal Music Group Announces Launch of Def Jam Africa

Tshego, in the video for his song “No Ties.”
Tshego, in the video for his song “No Ties.”

Screenshot: OfficialTshego (YouTube)

Monday was Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity. So it’s incredibly fitting that Universal Music Group, the world’s leading music company in over 60 countries, announced the launch of Def Jam Africa, which is dedicated to “supporting the best in African hip-hop talent and culture across the continent.”

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Per a press release from the music-based entertainment giant, the new label will be based in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria, and will find and sign talent from all over Africa, as well as employ workers in the areas of A&R, marketing, creative and digital. These UMG teams will report to Sipho Dlamini, the managing director of Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa, a role he’s held since 2016.

Illustration for article titled Universal Music Group Announces Launch of Def Jam Africa
Image: Def Jam Africa (Universal Music )
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“Many of us in Africa grew up on music from legendary labels under the UMG umbrella,” Dlamini said in a statement. “From Blue Note for jazz fans, to Mercury Records, which was Hugh Masekela’s first US label and Uptown Records, the home of Jodeci and Mary J Blige and many more. For those into hip-hop, no label has such cultural and historic relevance as Def Jam. From Run DMC, to LL Cool J, Disturbing tha Peace, Jay-Z, Big Sean and Kanye West, Def Jam has always been the ultimate destination for hip-hop and urban culture worldwide.”

The label is launching with a stellar roster of talent from all over the continent, with acts such as South Africa’s Tshego, Nasty C and Boity, to Nigeria’s very own Vector. The label has forthcoming releases from acts like Ricky Tyler, Tellaman feat. Alpha P, and Cassper Nyovest.

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“Def Jam is a globally recognized brand, synonymous with excellence in hip-hop, and we enthusiastically welcome the launch of Def Jam Africa as an opportunity for audiences worldwide to discover the incredibly talented hip-hop artists emerging from across the continent,” Jeff Harleston, interim Chairman & CEO, Def Jam Recordings says of the launch.

“It is a historic achievement that we’re now able to bring this iconic label to Africa, to create an authentic and trusted home for those who aspire to be the best in hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap,” Dlamini continues. “Together, we will build a new community of artists, that will push the boundaries of hip-hop from Africa, to reach new audiences globally.”

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Pronounced "Jay-nuh."

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Blue Note became a part of UMG in 2012 when UMG bought Blue Note’s parent, Capitol-EMI.